‘As They Rode Along The Edge’ is from Carrington’s collection The Seventh Horse and Other Tales. Haunting, humorous and viscerally violent, these surrealist texts are unearthed from fairy tales and nightmares. Carrington wrote “I’ve always had access to other worlds. We all do because we dream.” ‘As They Rode Along the Edge’ is the story of Virginia Fur who “has a mane of hair yards long and enormous hands with dirty hair” and travels the countryside on a wheel, surrounded by fifty cats. It is a gruesome myth of revenge against hunting, wild boars, one hundred nuns and a terrible feast, attended by a million birds of the night.
From The Seventh Horses and other Tales, EP Dutton, 1988. Also Penguin, 1988 and Virago, 1989
Carrington’s narrator has had enough of attending “cocktail-drinking, prize-giving-and-taking, artistic demonstrations and other casually hazardous gatherings organized for the purpose of people wasting other people’s time”. After various misadventures with cosmic wool, and her retirement from social face-eating competition, she ends up a saint, living on a traffic island. This story is darkly comic and completely bonkers in ways that mean it somehow ends up making sense.
First published – in French – as Une Chemise de nuit de flanelle, Parisot, 1951, translated by Ives Bonnefoy, then in The Seventh Horse and Other Tales, Dutton, 1988 and The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington, Dorothy Project, 2017
All right, I thought to myself, the journey has begun. The night will surely bring a solution. If I keep count of the trees until I reach the place I’m going to, I shan’t get lost. I’ll remember the number of trees on the return journey.
But I’d forgotten that I could only count to ten, and even then I made mistakes. In a very short time I’d counted to ten several times, and I’d gone completely astray. Trees surrounded me on all sides. ‘I’m in a forest,’ I said, and I was right.
The full moon shone brightly between the trees, so I was able to see, a few yards in front of me, the origins of a distressing noise. It was two cabbages having a terrible fight. They were tearing each other’s leaves off with such ferocity that soon there was nothing but torn leaves everywhere and no cabbages.
Collected in The Debutante and Other Stories, Silver Press, 2017. Read it online here
Virginia Fur lives in an abandoned village, and rides around, ‘between precipices, across trees,’ on a wheel. She has ‘a mane of hair yards long and enormous hands with dirty nails’, and she smells pretty interesting. Virginia Fur falls for a wild boar called Igname after he declares his love, dressed up for the occasion in a wig of squirrels’ tails and fruit, and with a nightjar perched atop his head. How could she resist? I couldn’t. Sadly, their furious passion is short-lived. Carrington’s stories often tread a line between the fabulous and the wilfully surreal, and ones that tip too far in the latter direction can make for a bewildering read. This one delivers the satisfaction of all Carrington’s strange imaginative flourishes adorning a story that we can recognise: love lost and avenged. I can’t remember where I first found this story, but it has lodged in my imagination ever since. Carrington’s work is a great reminder to let rip when it comes to writing, to embrace ideas and let them ride their wheels into the wild.
in The Seventh Horse and Other Tales, Virago, 1989